Jesuit Communications’ (JesCom) newest publication, “Redemption behind Bars” made its soft launch on the airwaves last April 25, 2023 in an episode of The Parable Café on Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM.
Hosted by JesCom Associate Director Fr. Ro Atilano, SJ, the program guested the book’s author Fr. Eli Rowdy Lumbo, SJ for an hour-long conversation detailing his life-changing experiences as the former Executive Director of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service (PJPS) for 12 years.
“Sa isip ko, hindi ko nakita yung hirap. Malinaw sa akin na ito yung gusto ng Diyos para sa akin. Why would I say no to the call to be transferred and to serve those behind bars,” recalled Fr. Eli of the phone conversation he had with the Jesuit Provincial asking him if he was ready to take on a new assignment, all while he was on retreat and contemplating on the mystery of the Annunciation to Mary.
It was around 2016 or five years into his new ministry that Fr. Eli began writing about his encounters with the New Bilibid Prison inmates on his Facebook profile, not wanting to forget the happiness he experienced witnessing the abounding grace of God even behind bars.
“Malinaw sa akin na sobra akong masaya ako sa ministry kahit na challenging o frustrating at times. Pero yung inspiration, yung galaw ng Diyos sa puso at kaluluwa ay sobra sobra. Kaya ko inumpisahan magsulat,” he acknowledged.
One of Fr. Eli’s most cherished experiences even happened a day before he professed his final vows as a Jesuit, where he was prayed over by a group of inmates after he had celebrated mass for them.
“The prayer was very heartwarming and moving. Habang nakapikit ako, umiiyak ako. Kahit wala sila sa araw na manunumpa ako habang buhay bilang Heswita, gusto nila na basbasan nila ako, dahil nabasbasan ko sila sa aking presensiya, sa ginagawa para sa kanila,” recounted Fr.Eli.
“Ito yung mga taong hinusgahan ng lipunan na makasalanan, pero ito yung mga taong nagdadasal nagbabasbas para sa akin. Yun yung napaka lalim at makahulugan para sa akin. Nahusagahan man sila, may pagbabagong nangyayari sa loob ng bilangguan.”
Upon the encouragement of close friends, including Fr. Ro, Fr.Eli’s touching Facebook posts were soon compiled into the book, “Redemption behind Bars”, whose inspiring message is now available for all to read.
“Wala talaga akong plano gumawa ng libro, pero sabi nga, it’s God’s plan. I just wanted to share stories that touched people’s lives. Para sa akin din, gusto ko lang ibahagi how blessed I was in the ministry, for people to know the stories of those behind bars na nahusgahan ng lipunan pero nakita ang biyaya ng Diyos- light in the darkness, hope in despair,” expressed Fr.Eli.
As readers pick up a copy of his book, Fr.Eli hopes that their glimpse into the lives of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) offers new insight into God’s redemptive love and forgiveness for all.
“Sana po suportahan niyo ang libro dahil mga kwento siya ng buhay ng tao, na nakita paano gumalaw ang Diyos. Kahit baku-bako ang daan, kahit hindi tuwid, ginagamit ng Diyos pabalik sa kanya.”
Pre-order your copy of “Redemption behind Bars” today. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via the JesCom Online Shop (JOSH) official Facebook page (facebook.com/joshaddtocart).
Attend the on-site book launch of “Redemption behind Bars”, happening this Sunday, May 7, 4pm at YOU Suites (2119 Recto Avenue, Manila). Guests and reactors will also share their heartening stories and insights, to be followed by a book signing by Fr. Eli himself.